Guardians fall to M's as pitching injuries take toll

Plesac, Civale land on IL just as Cleveland enters big September stretch

September 3rd, 2022

CLEVELAND -- Nothing has been working in the Guardians’ favor over the past week.

The team carried a streak of 27 consecutive innings without scoring a run into the seventh inning on Friday night before eventually falling, 6-1, to the Mariners at Progressive Field. And while the offense continues to struggle, the pitching, which had finally found its groove, has suffered a setback.

Prior to Friday’s series opener, the Guardians announced that both (right hand fracture) and (right forearm inflammation) were placed on the 15-day injured list. Plesac was scheduled to start on Friday and was replaced by , who made his big league debut, allowing three runs (two earned) in two innings.

Let’s first cover what happened with the two injured hurlers, beginning with Plesac.

During Plesac’s last start in Seattle on Saturday, he gave up a home run to Jake Lamb in the seventh inning. As he turned to watch the ball fly over the fence, he crouched down close to the ground and punched the mound in frustration. Guardians manager Terry Francona said Plesac didn’t remember doing that and wasn’t positive that’s when the fracture of his fifth metacarpal occurred, but the team is assuming that’s when it happened.

“That, to me and to the trainers, looks like what maybe set it off,” Francona said. “Best case is he's down a week in a splint.”

The Guardians are giving their best guesses at this point regarding Plesac’s timeline. He’s set to meet with hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham soon, and will have a better idea about his recovery timetable then.

As for Civale, he felt off during his bullpen session on Thursday after looking relatively sharp in his last start Sunday. Civale admitted that his elbow was giving him some trouble, which immediately induced some panic among the coaching staff. The team was relieved when the MRI didn’t reveal anything too concerning, aside from some inflammation in his forearm.

“It's musculature,” Francona said. “But when that happens, you know you get some swelling in that area, it can set off whether it's the nerve or whatever. It kind of makes it a little angry in there.”

The earliest Civale would be available to pitch in a big league game would be Sept. 14, but the club needs to wait to see how he responds to his initial rounds of treatment. The hope is that he’ll be able to throw at the beginning of next week to test how he feels, and the training staff will determine what’s best from there.

That leaves us with one question: What does this mean for the Guardians, who are desperately trying to cling to first place in the American League Central?

Francona was quick to say that Friday night’s performance would not define who Morris is as a pitcher. The team knows he was thrown into a whirlwind of a situation -- a big ask for a Major League debut. But with youth comes hiccups, especially in a player’s first few games, which makes it difficult to rely heavily on newcomers at such a crucial point in the season.

Next, will get his turn to try to seamlessly step into the rotation on Saturday after getting the call alongside to replace Plesac and Civale on the active roster. Like Morris, there’s a lot of unpredictability that comes with Curry, who’s thrown five big league innings in his career.

The Guardians have been a roster full of young and inexperienced players since the 2022 season got underway. This challenge is nothing new. However, at a time when the offense has been struggling to string hits together, especially in timely situations, the Guardians have been relying on their pitching staff more than they have all season. It’s clear these latest injuries could cause more problems.

Cleveland has lost six of its last eight games (including four against Seattle) and still has two more matchups against the Mariners before a stretch of eight games in 11 days against the division-rival Twins next weekend. During this rocky span, the Guardians have watched their lead in the division drop from a season-high four games to just one.

Each time a rookie was called upon this year, the Guardians had two options: sink or swim. So far, they’ve been able to do the latter. Now, they just need to find a way to tread water for another five weeks to hang on to the division.

“It's not time to panic,” Guardians shortstop Amed Rosario said, through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “We've been in worse situations already this year. I trust in the team that we'll be able to turn things around.”